of letter to Cultural Affairs Commission regarding
QUESTIONABLE RANKING PRACTICES in determining which
landmark LA freeway murals receive GRAFFITI REPAIR FUNDS.:
Cultural Affairs Commission:
am writing to inquire about the policy of repainting subsidies of landmark
LA City freeway murals.
July 13th, I called to learn about which freeway murals were to receive funds
for repair. I was told by Pat Gomez that one of my murals ranked somewhere
down the list, in other words, I received only a vague estimate that my LA
Marathon mural on the 10 Freeway at Overland Blvd. ranked nowhere near the
top. However, I was told Kent Twitchel's LA Marathon mural on the 405 was
on the top of the list. I find this quite disturbing. Can you please explain
the ranking process? Who is doing the ranking? What is the set of criteria?
Why wasn't each artist notified that his or her work was up for review? What
could possibly be the difference that would put two similarly themed murals
so far apart in estimated worth?
Gomez said, "If we answered all these questions (or whatever), then we
would have to notify every artist involved." I said, "Yes, that's
who it matters to the mostthese are our works of art!" We should certainly
be notified and the process explained.
Luckily, the murals I'm known for such as giant Nike murals (Bo Jackson at Hollywood and Vine, 70' X 60' in oils) are too high on buildings to be tagged by graffiti. My mural on the I-10 though is another story. I was told many years ago, by a tagger who didn't realize he was talking with the muralist, "We don't touch that one", referring to my LA Marathon mural, "We leave the good ones alone." I replied with something lame like "You know they are all works of art." Obviously, apparent by the extensive graffiti damage over the years, that was not the rule by which all taggers live.
I designed the LA Marathon mural "Year 2026" on the I-10 and started
painting it on the very morning of the earthquake in 1994, I had (and still
have) a very positive vision for Los Angeles: one of racial diversity and
harmony, progress, scientific and technical innovation, clean air, a respect
for and awareness of nature and strict conservation of limited resources,
and even a little good ole LA spirituality (represented by a lone seagull
flying out of the mural). My mural speaks of unity and togetherness. I conceived
of it during the time of the Rodney King beating, the Reginald Denny beating,
and the O.J. trial. It depicts a landscape from East LA to a sunset ocean,
the Glendale hills to the Santa Monica Mountains. Even the snow caps of Mount
Baldy are back there. It also shows a proud City Hall building in the distance
among new futuristic skyscrapers. There too are robots, humans running, and
even an anti gravity floating metro rail system that will no doubt be a reality
someday. Most of all it was a reflection of my hope for this city, the home
I've come to love.
KT's work, I feel compelled to share that he utilizes a paint-by-number system,
and then usually adheres the work to the wall. I don't claim to know every
detail of his technique. All I can say is that "Year 2026" was designed
by the artist, drawn with charcoal and painted with artist oils on site, in
the sun for over 3 months. It's 400' long by 30' high and painted by the artist
and two assistants. The I-10 freeway shattered and was closed down on either
side of the site due to the '94 Northridge quake. It took over 4 hours a day
just to commute to and from the heavily congested and damaged area. It took
a lot of sweat, care and sunblock to complete that mural so please understand
my emotional reaction to this ranking situation.
do not regard my lack of regard for the work of KT as impertinence; I have
nothing but praise for many artists who take my breath away, like Richard
Wyatt and his mural "Hollywood Jazz" at Capitol Records and the
late Eva Cockcroft's "Homage To Siqueiros". Freeway murals such
Glenna Avila's 250' long "LA Freeway Kids," or Willie Heron's 90'
long "Las Luchas Del Mundo," or John Wehrle's 207' long "Galileo,
Jupiter, Apollo" are also in need of attention and protection. I'd rather
see any of these refurbished even over my own. I just want to know that all
the artists who have made their positive mark on LA's art culture, who don't
have the political pull to get a higher ranking, that may not be big players
in the city art game, be ranked fairly for repair budgeting. I can't imagine
driving around LA without enjoying some of the landmarks that they have contributed
to our town.
I'd like to suggest that you split funds equally amongst the existing damaged murals, using a formula involving the combination of complexity, the real cost in creating the art, and square footage. Let it fall where it may. If indeed any artist's funding falls short of those required, let them do the footwork to acquire additional monies.
mail me copies of the complete guidelines and criteria governing the ranking
of freeway murals in Los Angeles slated or eligible for repair or refurbishment,
and all information of public record pertaining to the locations, and creators/artists
of said murals, including names, addresses and contact information. I would
also like a list of all members of the ranking committee members, as well
as all members of any organization, committee or group associated with the
award or disbursement of mural funding, and their contact information.
I don't mean to appear threatening, if I don't receive a satisfactory response,
I fully intend to take further action. I will also be sending copies of this
letter to the Times and the LA Weekly. Both of these publications featured
write-ups of the Marathon mural among many of my other works.
Cc: LA Times
by Ramiro Fauve
Bo Jackson/Nike mural at Hollywood and Vine
The 400' long LA Marathon mural "Year 2026",
I-10 freeway near Overland
a challenging place for Creatives. We have all the opportunities
in the world, but also everyone is fighting desperately for every little piece.
You'd think the one place artists would find a little relief is from the organizations
set up to help them. Not so in this city.
As a professional
artist myself for over 25 years, I know well the daily struggles of an artist.
Today, as a freelancer, I still have to wonder where my next client will come
from so I can pay my bills at the end of each month, like most anyone trying
to make a living in Los Angeles. The art scene here takes as much PR work and
drive as the release of any motion picture. You have to scratch and claw your
way to a white wall space the way an agent has to bribe his way to the top of
a guest list.
Who will my next client be? Who will support my craft? Who will give me the chance to shine in my chosen profession? Usually it is a corporation, like Nike or Reebok, looking for a giant mega-mural, or a big movie studio looking to promote their latest blockbuster, maybe a production company needing a replica of the Mona Lisa or a portrait of a movie star for the set of their next commercial. Or maybe a set company needing a backdrop or painted graphic. Perhaps a client needs our computer graphics department for web design, or logo work, or a character created. With projects as unpredictable and varied as the city, you never know what yer gonna git.
do get that call, however, they say, "Hi, we've heard of you. We know what
you do and we need your talents". You give your bid, you get the job, you
do it to their satisfaction, you move on to next month's mortgage payment. That's
the way it should work. That's how you move along, getting better at what you
do: expanding your client base and building your name. If you're playing the
game right, you do your job well and you get called again.
reason, the institutions that dole out art projects in this city, such as the
Department of Cultural Affairs, MCLA and SPARC dont seem to think this
is a good working model. As we spend each day struggling to keep our plates
spinning, in comes one of those lovely Call To Artists mailers, notifying all
the artists throughout the city that there's a new project they can fight over.
That is very exciting stuff...until you look at the multitude of hurdles you
will have to jump to even be considered for the project. It's an artistic Everest
expedition, and you'd better grab your oxygen mask!
a project arises, one must prove his or her track record in glorious detail.
They expect the average artist, who is avoiding Whole Foods because the price
of olives is more than their phone bill, to create a design, go and make slide
copies of all their work, label them all with an explanation of when, where,
who, what and why, a letter of interest, a design, a bio, a complete list of
materials needed all sent by mail by a due date that is always just short of
think we all have slide duplicators at home? Do they think that we have all
the time in the world to burn just to enter what is basically an art contest?
Never mind that the budgets we are to work within reflect a time when soda was
a nickel. It would be great to have all this luxury time to enter one contest
after another all year long in hopes of one little job. And in the event you
get awarded this Oscar of art opportunity you will have to do it with a "design
team" and untold numbers of community participants.... To some artists
the thought of this is akin to group sex with total strangers! You mean I have
to show somebody how to mix green????? Maybe this is why, after over 25 years
of creating and painting works of art, I can recall only one city mural project
I've been party to.
to step back a sec and say hey, I have about 3 careers, I'm an overachiever,
I am completely immune to the anxiety associated with working with huge design
teams and impossible deadlines. I do it all the time. BUT, how's Joe or Jane
Artist dealing with this? How are they affording the time energy and expense
of trying to snag one of these Golden Butterfly city art projects? The artist
that catches one of those in their nets is truly fortunate indeed. I can imagine
most artists are sitting there going- you gotta be crazy- who's got that kind
of time? An Everest climb...by Monday? Most artists simply don't have the resources
to put all those requirements in order. Most artists are going to be intimidated
by the process and the conditions. Most artists will simply lose the inspiration
just looking up at the height of the mountain. Basically, the fun was just sucked
out of it. One can only assume that the under-privileged will have an even harder
time getting to the gate.
I have plenty of commercial clients to keep my family and me rolling. Companies
look at my samples, whether on my website, via printed samples or by viewing
my portfolio. They let me do my thing, or tell me what they want to see. I get
inspired and deliver. Maybe the City could find a less demanding, stifling,
bureaucratic method for sharing monies and opportunities with deserving artists.
Maybe they could keep files on hand so that an artist would not have to resubmit
with every new project. Maybe the panels could be more diverse in their backgrounds
in order to allow a wider range of artistic views and approaches. Maybe then,
our unknown and sometimes talented youths would not be so desperate to communicate
and express that they resort to voicing their views through graffiti on every
available surface. Maybe then we might in this City of Art see creations that
are not SO restrained, conformist, tame, processed, screened, dictated, directed,
censored, and designed by politically driven committees and review boards. Maybe
more real artists would emerge with their odd colors and shapes and help make
this desert town a little more interesting.
The City, like any other client, like the Church was client to many great artists like Michelangelo, often holds the purse strings. Now maybe the purse could be brought down a bit closer to street level.
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